Now that I’m back to a regular teaching schedule and M is back to all sorts of activities, I’ve rediscovered my love of small, mindless projects – things I can knit wherever I am, whether it’s sitting at the pool during a swim lesson…

Pike swim lessons - I don't have to be in the water with her anymore and that's pretty awesome!

…waiting for the service to begin at my UU church…

Knitting before the service at my UU church, wearing a shawl because it's SO COLD today!

…walking home from the bus after a long day on campus…

Knitting while walking home from the bus. 2x2 rib is perfect for mindless knitting to keep my hands busy!

…or watching an episode of Portlandia with my husband before bedtime.

8:30pm - knitting and Portlandia before bed. #adayinthelifephotochallenge

This 2×2 rib tube has kept my hands busy for the past week.

A tube! This has kept my hands busy for the past week or so. Leftover yarn from M's very first hat.

It’s going to be a hat, eventually. I’m using the yarn from the very first hat I ever knit for M, back when she was only known as “the munchkin”:

hat for the munchkin

Indulge me, but I’ve got to include the picture of her wearing it after here 2 week well baby visit:

Coming home from the pediatrician

Awww. Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was looking at those old photos with M, and mentioned to her that I might have enough leftover yarn to make her a hat that would fit her now. She seemed interested, so I cast on (164sts on size 2 needles using Twisted German Cast-On, for anyone who’s interested in details), and knit away, but as the tube grew longer, I grew more worried that the hat was going to be too small – it’s amazing how much 2×2 rib contracts! So, I tried it on my own head:

I'm knitting this for M. Or at least, I meant for it to be hers. But gosh, it fits me, too, and I kinda want to steal it! #badmama

Well, no need to worry – if I can get it on my noggin, it’ll fit hers. But…gosh, now that I’ve tried it on, I want to keep it for myself! It goes so nicely with my blue-green eyes, after all…

It matches my eyes, after all! (M's are chocolate brown). We'll see.

…so, we’ll see. If I do end up stealing my own child’s hat (bad mama!), worry not, there are more hats on the way for her! I recently ordered some more Chroma from Knitpicks (for making more Stripes! cardigans), and while I was at it, threw in a skein of Hawthorne sock yarn in the bright magenta color that M had squealed over when we were looking at the Knitpicks catalog. So my plan is to give that skein to her with her Fall Equinox gifts, and ask her if she’d prefer a hat in that color. I’m pretty sure I’ll get my way with this one :)

And beyond the 2×2 rib hats, I’ve also been plotting a Foxy hat for M. There’s just one problem…

All those teeny balls used to be a single skein of Malabrigo. Then Ren got ahold of it and snuggled it, with teeth. I salvaged what I could and hope it'll still work for a Foxy hat for M!

All those tiny balls used to be a single skein of Malabrigo worsted in “Natural”. Then Ren got ahold of it and snuggled it, with teeth. And, well, I salvaged what I could. I always boggle at folks who have cats and can leave yarn/projects in open baskets or on shelves…not with this cat! I swear, Ren is a wool-seeking missile. And not just for yarn, but for projects, too – unless I get cabinets with glass doors, I will *always* have to hide away all of my knits when I’m not wearing them. Sad! But anyway, I think that despite the damage, I can get a nice-looking Foxy hat out of this:

Future Foxy Hat for M

And all this talk of hats reminds me that I have an almost-ready-to-release pattern/tutorial for the hat (and matching mittens) I knit for M (and for all of her cousins) last year:

a girl and her leaf.

Just gotta look over it and maybe pester my test-knitters for a little more feedback and then I think it’ll be ready to go, in time for last-minute Rhinebeck knitting, even!

on my needles and on my mind


I had all these grand plans for knitting and pattern-writing this summer, and…well, they didn’t really materialize. I am so very good at doing things in my head (my imaginary knits are incredible, you guys!), but actually doing them in reality is sometimes beyond my grasp. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I spend so much time daydreaming when I could actually be doing, but I’m not sure I’d have any motivation to do if it weren’t for the daydreaming…the trouble, as with pretty much everything in life, is finding a good balance! And then of course there’s the problem of feeling like I’ve accomplished something just by deciding that I’ll do it, and then forgetting to, you know, actually do it. I get stuck at step one. Oh, adulting. It’s hard.

But anyway, I did knit quite a bit this summer, but it was a rather unfocused sort of knitting that resulted in quite a few WIPs and not a whole lot of FOs. But here’s a run-down of the stuff that’s currently on my needles, and if not on my needles just yet, most pressingly on my mind.

Stripes cardi-in-progress for me.

My Stripes! cardigan is still in progress, and now has about 3/4 of a sleeve. I’m really delighted with how it’s turning out, and hope to wear it to Rhinebeck this year. (I’d best get a move on that, since that’s only a little over a month away!) I’m still planning to write up a top-down pattern for both adults and kiddos, and on that note, I’ll be knitting a newborn-sized one quite soon, as a gift to two of the ministers at my UU church – they are expecting their first baby in late November, and I couldn’t think of a better gender-neutral piece of knitwear for two amazing UU ministers than a cardigan with rainbows on it.

Garter Rib cardigan #2 for M

On the knits-for-Rhinebeck front, I also cast on for a second Garter Rib cardigan for M (and, as with Stripes!, have plans to release a pattern once I’ve finished writing/testing it). Her old one was getting a bit snug (though it did fit her for a good long time, thanks to the stretchy garter rib!), so we passed it down to her cousin Emma, along with her old Stripes! cardigan (which reminds me – I’d like to knit M another one of those, too!) Check out the amazing buttons that M chose for her new Garter Rib cardigan (the purple ones were to replace the lost buttons on her old one before we gave it to Emma):

Maddy chose the purple buttons to go on the old garter rib cardi (which she's passing down to cousin Emma) and the awesome octopus ones for her new garter rib cardi (which I'm currently knitting).

I just cast on for the sleeve of M’s new cardigan…gosh, I love tubular cast-ons!

Gosh I just love tubular cast-ons

Other things that have crept onto my needles recently include another pumpkin hat:

Another pumpkin hat (in progress)

And another “padded sweet tomato heel” sock for M:

"Jupiter" sock number one

The colors remind us of Jupiter, so I’ve been calling them “Jupiter” socks. I carried the slipped heel stitch all the way down the sole of the sock, and am happy with how that turned out:

"Padded Sweet Tomato Heel"

I really like Cat Bordhi’s “Padded Sweet Tomato Heel”, though my slipped stitches sometimes do get a little wonky in combination with the short rows. I think it might be because I’m doing the heel over an even number of stitches but her tutorial is over an odd number, so I’m turning on the slipped stitches in a way that she’s not. Something to think about for the next pair!

I also picked up a skein of Feederbrook Farm Entropy (I was getting a skein for my GMDS swap partner, and couldn’t bear not to pick one up for myself, too), which is turning into a Wurm hat for me:

Wurm-to-be (for me)

Those blues and purples just sing to me!

As if all these things aren’t enough, I also really want to knit myself some bootliners, and got a few Pam Powers patterns to get me started. My first pair will be charcoal grey, because that’s a really useful color in my wardrobe:


And I haven’t given up my intention to knit up lots of cowls and other neck adornments, too. And of course there’s my long-stalled Lopi Affection cardigan, the finishing of the Mitered Crosses Blanket, and the never ending and ever-expanding list of both patterns I hope to knit and designs I hope to create from stash yarn, and goodness gracious do I ever have a lot of stash yarn to work through! (And oh gosh, there’s sewing, too…oh, dear brain of mine, there is only one of me!) My fingers can’t keep up with my imagination, but I’m really trying this year to be mindful about my acquisitions, and about actually setting about doing the things I’ve dreamed up. Wish me luck?

back to school!


Yesterday was the first day of school of the 2015-2016 school year for both M and me!

It's the first day for BOTH of us!

As much of a privilege as it was to get to spend so much of every day with M this summer, I’m not going to lie – I found it to be very, very challenging. My hat goes off to the folks who stay home with their kids, because that’s definitely not a life I’m cut out for. I feel so much more like myself when I’m teaching, and honestly, teaching freshmen about writing and thinking comes WAY more naturally to me than parenting a 3 year old does! It’s very good to feel competent at my daily work again. But I’m sure I will miss being able to do so many fun activities, like our trips up to the beach at Lake Ontario,

Out-of-focus toe-dipping at the beach.
dipping our toes…

We rode the carousel together :)
…riding the carousel (aka “horsey train”)…

Making a sandcastle.
…and building sandcastles!

and our afternoon baking sessions,

We're making oatmeal date cookies!
oatmeal date cookies!

and many, many visits to the playground,

So proud of this kid! She decided to learn how to climb a new thing, and kept at it until she could do it without any help from me!
learning to climb a new thing!

and to Highland Park,

In her favorite tree (at Highland Park)
hanging out with her “special tree friend”

and all those walks with the wagon up to our bed in the community garden:

On our way to do some maintenance at our community garden bed.
she LOVES this wagon!

It’ll be much harder to do most of these things, now that we’re back to full days at school for both of us. Not only that, but we’re already losing noticeable amounts of light at the end of the day, and I’ve lived here long enough to know what’s coming: darkness before we’re even home for the evening. But before that happens, there will be time for apple picking, and Rhinebeck, and hopefully at least some weekend visits to Highland Park and our other beloved gardens and playspaces. And there’s a very exciting new activity that will fill our time together on Friday afternoons, when I pick M up at 3pm instead of 5pm – she’s starting violin lessons at Hochstein! She’s been asking to play violin for a full year now, and I think she’s finally ready to pay attention at a lesson, so here we go! It’ll be interesting to be on the “Suzuki parent” side of things, instead of the (older) “Suzuki student” side of things!

So here’s “goodbye!” to summer, and “hello!” to the new school year. I’ll close with a photo I actually took by accident, but ended up loving…all of M’s summer things, strewn about the porch:

Summer Stuff
her rock and stick “treasures”, her sand bucket, her bubble stuff

Happy new school year, everyone!

hey, remember when we used to knit socks all the time?

Kitchenering sock number one, at the playground.

Well, here’s one! I cast on last week for an M-size sock (which, though noticeably smaller than a me-size sock, isn’t as MUCH smaller as you might think!) and was able to kitchener the toe shut while watching M play in the sandbox at the playground yesterday. She was delighted to model it:

All done!

Awhile back, I came across the Cat Bordhi’s “Sweet Tomato Heel” videos on YouTube, and was really interested in the “Padded” version she demonstrated – it has the same slip-stitch pattern as a traditional heel flap, but carried around the short-row heel (which is not a standard one – it’s a series of smaller wedges over 2/3rds of the total stitches). So, I decided that I’d try it out on M’s sock, and it worked great! She says it is very very comfortable.

The rest of the sock is pretty basic – I cast on 56 stitches with backwards loop, and did a picot cuff by knitting 5 rounds, then a *YO, k2tog* round, then 5 more, then knitting the next round together with the cast-on loops. Then 2×2 rib down to where the heel started, and once the heel was finished, I only kept the ribbing going on the top of the foot – all of the stitches that had been part of the slip-stitch heel were just knit in stockinette. (I’m actually curious, if I knit another pair, what it would feel like if I carried the slip-stitches all the way up the bottom of the foot. Would that be like the kind of “padded” soles on some storebought socks?). I really like the 2×2 rib, because the stretchiness makes it easy for M to put the socks on for herself, and the Sweet Tomato Heel also seems to be easier for her than either the heel flap or the short-row garter stitch heels on the other socks I’ve knit for her (which she has since outgrown).

M was having such a blast at the playground that I was able to cast on for sock #2:

Starting sock number two.

And by the end of the evening, I was almost done with the leg ribbing and ready to start the heel. Yesterday made me remember part of the old appeal of sock projects – they’re so portable! Though I’m a sweater knitter at heart, sweaters-in-progress (at least, the way I like to knit them, which is as seamless as possible) are not exactly easy to bring along to the playground. Socks, though? Socks are great. (Shawls are pretty good, too, though!)

I’m not promising a sock-knitting revival here, but it seems that knitting socks for my kid is WAY more exciting than knitting socks for me! It helps that she is such an appreciative recipient of them, but really, I just don’t get much out of knitting socks for myself anymore. For awhile I was really into my Smartwool knee highs, but they eventually wore through. I quite like the inexpensive (certainly cheaper than a skein of sock yarn!) Smartwool-knockoff socks from Costco that I’ve been wearing for the last few years. In the winter, I mostly wear boots, and thus need knee-high socks, and if I’m going to put in the time to knit a pair of knee-high socks, well, I’d rather spend it knitting sweaters. But I do have a bit of a problem, which is that the Costco socks that I love aren’t actually knee-high, and with my boots, I need the knee-high socks to act as a barrier between my boots and my tights, otherwise my tights get shredded. I’m actually tempted to get a bootliner kit from Craftsy and make myself some bootliners to wear with the Costco socks. Perhaps that will be my new portable project of choice (when I’m not knitting socks for M).

things i knit for maddy(‘s baby doll): a wool soaker!


I finished a draft of a manuscript, so had some *actually* free time this morning while M is at camp. Apparently, when left to my own devices, I will follow through on whatever idea pops into my head at that moment, craft-wise, and thus, I created these:

Sometimes I knit doll undies on a whim.

Yep, doll undies. M’s baby doll had a nice little felt diaper, once upon a time, but it got lost somewhere, and she’s been bringing naked baby everywhere with her recently. I thought maybe baby could use a wool soaker, so I got out some Lion Brand Fishermans Wool, some size 6 dpns, and made her one.

Baby's diaper got lost, and I thought she could maybe use a "soaker". Just made it up to fit baby perfectly. I hope M likes it!

No pattern – I just cast on what appeared to be the right number of stitches using backwards-loop (I actually just held it up against baby and guesstimated from that), then knit a few rows of garter stitch for the front before decreasing to make the curve of the leg holes, and then reversed that to make the back side of the leg holes, did some short rows, etc etc…I basically used the same “recipe” as for the diaper cover I designed for M a couple years ago (which I should maybe actually write up someday?). The ribbing at the waist was done using smaller dpns – I think they were size 3s. And the fit is perfect!

I guess now that baby has a soaker, she probably should get a sweater, too, eh? Maybe that’ll be my project for another day :)

i knit a rainbow!


(But first, thank you so much for all of the kind and thoughtful replies to my last post. While I wish that nobody had to struggle with those feelings, I’m glad it connected with those of you who do. We’re not alone, and we can keep working to get better.)

From the back.

The rainbow shawl is finished, and it is so gorgeous I can hardly stand it! I threw it on to take pictures despite it being 91 degrees and sunny (so, not exactly wool shawl weather). Here are the details:

Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Whippoorwill, by Carina Spencer
Yarn: Kauni Effektgarn, in the EQ colorway
Needles: Size 6 Knitpicks circulars
Time to knit: About 3 weeks

It's blocking!

The nice thing about summer is that if I finish a shawl, I can pin it out outside, and within a few hours, it’s dry! This is so much simpler than in winter, where blocking a knit item requires finding a cat-free space (borderline impossible in our house!) and leaving the item there for at least a full day.

All pinned out.

I set the shawl out in the morning, and it was dry before M got home from her summer camp. She helped me un-pin it…

Helping me remove the pins.

…and then posed for a photo with me (with the promise that we’d walk to the playground as soon as we finished!) We were both wearing rainbows, though hers were more appropriate for the weather!

We're both wearing rainbows! (Though hers are a bit more appropriate for today's weather!)

This is the first true crescent-style shawl I’ve knit:

So happy with how this turned out!

It drapes over my shoulders so nicely!

From the side.

I’m not sure I quite figured out how to wrap it in front (I still find that easiest with triangle shawls), but I gave it a go:

wearing it wrapped in front.

As a side note, it was lovely to be working on this rainbow shawl when the Supreme Court decision came out legalizing same sex marriage across the country. Knowing that my daughter will grow up in a country where she can marry whoever she loves, and that she was young enough when this decision was made that she’ll never know it was any different…that’s incredible. I still think there are problems with privileging marriage over other kinds of family structures, and we certainly aren’t done in terms of ensuring rights, respect, acceptance, and love for LGBTQ folks, and I hope that we don’t forget that. Actually, while I’m thinking about it, I do plan to write up a pattern for the top-down rainbow striped cardigan I’m working on, and while my usual charity of choice is Heifer International, I’d like with that pattern to donate some of the proceeds to an organization that supports LGBTQ folks. Does anyone have a favorite group they could recommend?

parenting and perfection


This isn’t really about knitting at all, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and I need a place to “think out loud”, so to speak. Perfectionism is something I’ve struggled with my entire life. I think it sometimes gets framed in a positive way, like being a perfectionist means that you’re more attentive or careful and produce better things because of that – and maybe that’s so, but really, it’s toxic. It’s debilitating. I’m speaking from experience, here – it has literally been a debilitating force in my life. Perfectionism means living your life in constant fear of messing up, of being “found out” as imperfect, and that’s just not ever going to be a healthy way to live. Since nobody is perfect, you will *always* be a failure if perfection is your goal, and this will either lead you to stop trying (because why try, if you will only fail?) or to be miserable and self-loathing (because you’re trying, but aren’t perfect), the latter being where I’ve been most of my life. So…don’t make perfection the goal. This, I’d say, has been the big project of adulthood for me: letting go of the perfectionist mindset, and trying to adopt a new inner voice to talk to myself with, one that is not the cruel, judgmental perfectionist demon, but instead, is kind and patient with me (this is something I’ve worked on via DBT, as part of the therapy I’ve engaged in these past several years). And as a parent, one of my biggest goals is to raise M to be a lifelong learner, to have a “growth” mindset, which means she will need to be open to and unafraid of failure and mistakes – and this means I hope like crazy that I can help her not to develop the perfectionist demon, not to have that nasty inner voice, even though it’s something I struggle with myself.

Lately, I’ve been finding myself falling into the perfectionist traps my mind sets more frequently. M is 3.5 now. This means she is in a developmental stage where it is completely normal for her to be extremely fussy and particular about rules and routines, and to incessantly “correct” me for perceived violations of them. I can’t go a day without her telling me I “forgot” something (whether I actually did or not – she’ll often say I “forgot to get” her something that she only just then decided she wanted!), or that I said the wrong word, or did something the wrong way…it’s constant. And while I know it’s developmentally appropriate (it’s GOOD that she’s noticing rules and patterns!), and I shouldn’t take it personally, I’ve been struggling a lot with having what is essentially a personification of the nasty perfectionist voice inside my own head actually talking out loud to me. Because there’s a part of me that already IS kind of beating myself up when I say the wrong word, or mess up in any way, really – I haven’t vanquished the perfectionist demon, after all, I’ve just gotten better at ignoring it, pushing it way way down into the back of my mind. But when those “you’re wrong! you messed up! you failed!” thoughts are being voiced by an actual person…gosh, it’s a lot harder to ignore that. And then the perfectionist demon gets a toehold again. It’s wearing me down a bit. Especially since often, when I get something wrong, it isn’t just that M tells me about it – she often utterly loses it and unleashes an intense (and sometimes violent) tantrum. It makes me want to give up, sometimes – I end up being just constantly afraid that I will “screw up”, walking on eggshells constantly, just…afraid, and feeling like I am never good enough, those all too familiar feelings that the toxic perfectionist inner voice has pushed me towards my whole life. And that’s no way to enjoy life with your kid.

So that’s hard. But the other side of it is that as a parent, if you struggle, and you are open about struggling, you get a LOT of…well, we’ll call it feedback from other adults. Often it feels like (and let’s be honest, IS) judgement – the struggles you’re having are all your fault for not being a better parent, etc. But even the well-intentioned stuff can feel a bit triggering, if perfectionism is a problem area for you. Here’s what I mean. When I talk about M’s tantrums and how she struggles with things like transitions and change (these are perfectly normal characteristics for a child with M’s “high need” temperament, by the way), the advice I get is to “be consistent”. I want to be clear: this is NOT bad advice, at all. It’s very good advice. Consistency is very helpful for all kids, but especially for kids like M who have much higher needs in terms of structure and routine. But here’s where my inner perfectionist demon goes with that advice: if I ever fail to be perfectly consistent (e.g. those times when I mess up in the moment, because, well, nobody’s perfect, especially when as sleep deprived as I am due to M’s nighttime difficulties), then whatever problems ensue are entirely my fault, due to that failure to be consistent. And I mean, there’s a sense of truth to that, because nobody is perfectly consistent, and if consistency is what’s important, then the problems that arise will arise when inconsistency creeps in. But I’m guessing that even with perfect consistency in their parents’ actions/responses/etc, kids will still lose it sometimes – they’ve got a lot of big feelings to figure out! And the perfectionist twist on it, to view the struggles as purely a matter of personal failing, to make it about self-blame instead of treating it as a thing that happens because hey, nobody is perfect, is a toxic soup that I’m currently trying very hard to spit out. The nasty thing my mind does to me in that situation is it says that the badness that is happening right now is because *I* am bad. I’ve always had this feeling that if I screw up, then I deserve to be punished in some way, I deserve bad things to happen to me – and this ends up making it feel as though M’s tantrums are my punishment for not being a perfect parent. That if I could just anticipate her needs better, that if I just didn’t say the wrong thing, that if I didn’t screw up, that if I were more perfectly consistent, then I wouldn’t be “punished” with a tantrum. I “deserve” those tantrums for my failure to be perfect. And that’s just a really, really unhealthy (and wrong, and bad for my relationship with M) way to think about it. I know this, intellectually, but it doesn’t keep my mind from going there sometimes.

One thing worth noting is that I’ve seen plenty of toddler/preschooler tantrums in my time, and M’s are…on the extreme end, which I’m sure has something to do with why I find them so punishing. We’re looking into whether she should be getting some help for sensory processing and other issues – she does a lot of self-injurious things (finger-biting, hair-pulling) when she’s upset, and it seems to me more like she’s doing them because she’s struggling to manage her big emotions, and less like she’s doing them to manipulate me (though it does pretty effectively shred my heart). You hear a lot about ignoring tantrums, about not “giving in” to tantrums (it’s that consistency thing, again), but when your kid is hurting herself, you also can’t (or at least, shouldn’t!) just ignore it. (I also tend to think “just ignoring” is a bad thing to do to anyone who you love and want to build/maintain a relationship with, but that’s another topic). I try to comfort her, and I’m getting good at a sort of “straightjacket” hold that keeps her from biting her fingers, but it’s not an easy thing to do, physically (she’s 40 pounds!) or emotionally (again, especially when sleep-deprived). She needs better coping skills, and we’re trying to help her develop them – but of course, as is probably obvious from the way I talk, I’m not exactly a master of coping skills, myself (it’s work-in-progress, here…but I *am* working on it). It’s hard to be the parent of a “high need”/”spirited” kid, and harder still when you’ve got your own struggles in terms of sensitivity and sensory issues (M pushes me into sensory overload quite frequently – my world “goes purple” when she’s screaming full-volume, and I often want to crawl under heavy blankets or even a mattress, because being squished calms me – but of course, I’m the grown-up, so I can’t just go do that, usually). Add in a tendency towards perfectionism, and you’ve got a recipe for misery. Perfectionists crave positive feedback – it means you’re not screwing up! But you’re not going to get much positive feedback as the parent of a “difficult” child – people won’t see how hard you work, how much effort and energy you put into coaching your kid, anticipating their needs, helping them manage themselves in new situations, how much “better” your kid is being than if you *weren’t* doing those things – they’ll just see a kid who’s too intense, whose worn-down looking parent “can’t control” them (though I’d argue that any parent who truly could control their child must be an abusive one who has broken that child, because that is the only way you “control” other human beings). You just won’t get the gold stars, the “her parents do such a great job with her” comments that you’ll hear people make about other people’s kids. So you’ve got to let go and just accept things as they are, and believe that you are doing your best, and that it is enough, even if you never hear that from anyone else. That you are enough, and your kid is enough, whether you’re recognized by anyone else as “good” or not. But that’s hard. I don’t have good answers, here – I’m still working on finding my way – but I do think DBT has been helpful. And I thought it might also be helpful to think about this “out loud”, because I know that for me, one of the most helpful things when I am in self-loathing mode, thinking that I must be a horrible parent because I feel X or struggle with Y, is to see that no, I am not alone, this is a thing that others feel and I am not uniquely awful at parenting. So I hope this helps someone else who has similar struggles, and maybe also that it helps those who don’t struggle with perfectionism understand the ugly, painful side of it a little better.